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Ending employee relationships on a high note

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When an employee chooses to leave your company for another opportunity, it’s understandable that you may have mixed feelings. That said, letting them serve out their last two weeks and leave without acknowledgement or a fond farewell is unpleasant, and it can be a costly mistake. In such a competitive recruiting environment, it’s never a good idea to burn bridges— even with departing employees.

If an employee has done great work for your company, their network likely includes people who would also be a good fit. Ending your relationship with them on a high note increases the chances that they’ll speak highly of their experience to their job-seeking friends and acquaintances. 

Additionally, your remaining employees will take notice of how departures are treated. If company leadership makes the last few weeks on the job awkward or unpleasant for people who move on, employee morale is likely to suffer. 

With all this in mind, what does a positive end to an employment relationship look like? What should your company’s managers keep in mind when their reports move on to a new job? Here are a few tips: 

An exit interview is not enough

Departing employees should absolutely be offered the opportunity to share some of the highs and lows of their experiences at your company. The information they provide can be invaluable, and can help make the workplace a more enjoyable, productive environment for everyone involved. However, exit interviews are process-driven, and are usually a function of HR managers. They should by no means be considered a sufficient way to say goodbye. 

Acknowledge their contributions

After months or years of hard work, departing employees deserve kudos for what they’ve brought to the table. On or before an employees’ last day, make sure their managers and coworkers take a few minutes to share how valuable their work has been at the company. This has the added benefit of allowing your remaining employees to revisit some of their own successes in collaboration with their former colleague. 

Celebrate their new opportunity

Even if you’re not thrilled at the prospect of having to hire and train a new employee to fill the departing employee’s role, you can still join them in their excitement about their new job. Consider having some sort of celebratory send-off, such as a team lunch, donuts in the break room, or simply a card that their coworkers have signed to wish them well in their future endeavors. 

Keep the relationship open-ended

Careers are long and winding, and you never know where your departing employee’s circumstances will take them. They may get to their new company and quickly decide that it’s not a great fit for them. They may take several different jobs over a few years and gain valuable experience before deciding to apply for another role in your company. Or they may never apply for another job at your company, but instead may refer several friends and acquaintances for you to interview and hire. 

Whatever your (and your employer’s) future relationship with this person looks like, it’s a good idea to maintain a positive relationship with them. Just because the employee-employer relationship is coming to a close, there’s no reason to shut the door to any future opportunities for them to work with you in some capacity. 

By using some of these strategies when employees leave, you’ll be able to position your company well in the recruiting market, preserve your good reputation as an employer, and keep morale high for the remaining employees in your workforce.